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Senate campaign likely to get worse before it gets better

Posted: Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Enjoy this brief pause while you can. In fact, it may be so brief that it'll be over very soon.

Alaskans should brace for the expected onslaught of campaign advertisements, a wave that will likely exceed what the primary election presented in its final weeks. Voters who didn't know what to think about the competing ads heading into Tuesday's vote will find themselves with an even more arduous task in the next two months if they have any hope of determining truth from half-truth and fiction.

There's little doubt this is a fierce campaign for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now-Gov. Frank Murkowski in 2002. Alaskans have come to like seniority in their senators, so whoever wins in November is planning on staying in Washington for many years. Strategists in the national Republican and Democratic parties know this, which is why the money has poured into the campaigns of incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her Democratic challenger, former Gov. Tony Knowles.

To put the national attention in perspective, the candidates from lil' ol' Alaska ranked No. 36 (Murkowski) and No. 45 (Knowles) in fund raising among senators whether or not they face election this year and senatorial candidates. It isn't until No. 97 that a candidate's total drops below $1 million. The list is fluid, updated most recently with those candidates who filed reports in August, so the listing could change.

Alaska's fund-raising leaders place among a tier of well-known national heavyweights: Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama and George Voinovich of Ohio, for example, and Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin.

And where will all the millions coming into Alaska for the crucial Senate race go? Primarily into influencing voters, of course.

It's been a generation since Alaska last had a full-blown campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, in 1980 when Frank Murkowski won the seat his daughter now holds. The state's one seat in the U.S. House provided the most-recent close race for an Alaska congressional seat, in 1992, but that race didn't have the national implications that the present Senate campaign has: The balance of power in the Senate could depend on the outcome in Alaska.

And that's why the money is pouring in, why there will be such a monumental effort by the Republican and Democratic campaigns, and why truth might be difficult to find.

The candidates themselves, however, have the power to make it easier for voters to know the truth. And that's by running a clean and accurate campaign that points fairly at areas of disagreement and highlights positions on issues that matter.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Aug. 25



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